BY AMY MROTEK
At the risk of insulting every self-actualizing being between here and Boyle Hall, I must relinquish this nagging contemplation. All I ask in return is polite impartiality, and perhaps the general dislodging of personal slight bound to arise from the following.
Your dreams are essentially useless.
Gasp! Take the children out of the room, please. Or, at the very least, plug their ears and distract them with a participation trophy from Little League.
What may have worked as a singsong theme for Cinderella in the pit of her Disney despair is not the fundamental anthem in which to orient your overwhelming energy. Yes, dreams are propulsive. Dreams are intoxicating. Dreams are the silver compass we pull out of our pockets to navigate the decision-making north, this impulse of internal ambition and long-term goals seeped in positive potential, all designed to carve the clay figurines of personal narrative.
Yet what happens when that narrative exceeds all measures of capacitive maturity? What foot do we lean on when, now more than ever, as college students facing the jagged precipice dubbed adulthood, that unfettered dream is the very thing preventing you from its fulfillment?
The assumption seems to be that the realization of our dreams somehow means the realization of who we are really meant to be. The dream is the projection of the self in its most latent grip, a fantasy bound in bubble wrap. If we just keep popping the dots one after another after another in purposed, methodic succession, if everything is accounted for, every box checked, then it’s all but manifest to reach the long-anticipated end. Then, and only then, and boy did we work for it, will we be fully content. Nirvana in springtime bloom, the puzzle pieces in crystalized cement.
It doesn’t take the sharpest wit to see the inevitable pitfalls here. It also doesn’t take a diagnosed cynic. In the most poetic manner, this dream casting is the formulaic recipe racing toward a disappointing crescendo. We are, for lack of padded vocabulary, setting ourselves up for failure, as we have ascribed all time, space and place to a singular, anticipatory definition of success. If and when we don’t meet that self–if hurdles are thrown in the mix, if unexpected events strike, if suddenly we’re knocked from the linear dream path we have scribed into stone–then we have utterly lost. We went all-in on what was assumed a winning hand only to realize we have been playing the entirely wrong game.
These latent selves need wane and reign in their everyday skin in order to prevent their very undermining. A fantasy without synonyms has no wiggle room. It rarely allots room to breath, rarely takes vacation, rarely allows you to pursue glistening peripheral activities and relationships because they do not directly fuel the dream. It gets stuck in its own mud, so concerned with mediated gratification it shackles us to rigid exclusivity.
This is, in part, a repercussion of societal entrapment. When you live in an industrial world fevered with efficiency and production, to not have at least a 10-year plan suggests you are drifting in a nether world of the meaningless. You are plopped on the other side of the spectrum, equally as faulty in its assumption of laziness and curated, pseudo-angst.
Really, the only remaining option is the impossible: how do you recognize a pattern in which to tune your life while still leaving room for flux? How do you wake up in the morning excited about the plot of the day without chaining yourself to expectations or, worse, dragging those unchanged potentials with you ever down the road?
If you have these answers, by all means, send them a-roaring my way. Or publish a book and send me an annotated copy. Until then, I’ll be crossing my fingers, holding out for the real dream, where balance comes written between pleasure and purpose, where effort never detracts from ease.